Drop the Mask
In song, album title, and press release, XP8 declare, "It's time to grow real fast... it's time to drop the mask." This is a TERRIBLE idea for a couple industrial dudes wearing mascara and creative hair, one of whom has this rad tattoo of some cattle-skull deity on his arm:
Dressing up is intense! Masks are intense! Remember Eyes Wide Shut, when the King of the Orgy commands Tom Cruise, "You will kindly remove your mask"? Spoiler alert: Tom Cruise removes his mask and doesn't get to have any orgy fun. (He has a bad couple days besides that.) And consider the Greek tragedy! Those people all wear masks, and they're so creepy I can barely look at these people doing Agamemnon:
In short: masks = mysterious, sexy, and badass.
XP8 seem to be going for mysterious, sexy, and badass. Lead single "Want It" is sort of like a more thumping version of "Closer" by NIN, wherein guest singer Daniel Graves (from Aesthetic Perfection) Wants It "now," "rough," and "sexy as fuck." I think we all know what he's referring to! Honestly, I can't think of a better soundtrack for violating someone you hate--or at least someone you're pretending to hate, for kicks (they keep getting harder to find)--while lights both black and strobe jack up your electrical bill.
But of course the two XP8ers, Marco and Marko, could just claim that their future stripclub hit is telling it like it is. Being honest! Cutting through the usual seduction crap! Isn't that what we all want, after all--to live in a world that's honest, where men can be free to bare their souls and atone for any previous deception? Hence the cynical "One True God," which seems to be about how monotheism is a precursor to violence and hatred, much like the violence and hatred embodied in Marc(k)o's fierce industrial grooves.
But what've they got going in "One True God"? Synths and synths and synths, that's what! And without making any fatuous "synths signify falseness" claims, I can point out that there's a low swoopy bass synth, a midrange fast-sequence synth, a high shimmery descant synth, and a disco thud, which, when coupled with the swoopy bass synth, makes the whole thing sound pretty bouncy for an angry anti-intolerance tune. One way to make angry protests signify is to strip them way down to an acoustic guitar and a voice, like Tom Morello doing his dire Nightwatchman spiel; a better, albeit more dressed-up, way is to make them dance.
Land sakes, the next song's even faster! "One Pill Missing" it's called, and must be a representation of a frantic speed freak in search of that one precious pill that was no doubt palmed by his good-for-nothing jock roommate, who keeps calling speed freak's EBM music "totally hardcore, dude," and then returns to his idiotic O.A.R. CDs. Only, O.A.R. can do rage, too--what's that song that gets some play on AAA and Hot AC stations--"Didn't you LOOOOVE ME, faster than the devil?!!" (Always struck me as a waste of a good rhetorical question, that one--how fast is the devil supposed to be capable of loving? Your Bible's not gonna have the answer, friend; maybe Paradise Lost, or the South Park movie.)
And "Awake, Restart" is ALL thump. Until the synths start to pile up, that is, and Marc(k)o starts screaming orders at himself. "aWAKE! reSTART!" It's gonna be a great day! And you could TOTALLY do aerobix to this song--remember Kanye's Workout Plan? That's what the beat reminds me of, even though the songs are nothing at all alike. You could use this album in a number of different social settings. This tune's good for the gym, whereas "Want It" is a total strip club hit waiting to happen, tucked between "Crazy Bitch" and Rob Zombie's greatest hits. The awful slow "Breathe the Poison In" is perfect for your breakup mixtape, when you're trying to inflict as much pain as possible on the recipient, blinded from the fact that they're just gonna listen once, laugh, and load that one O.A.R. song into iTunes before pitching the CD. I mean, seriously: even when the disco thud comes in, it doesn't enliven the fact that Marc(k)o's still being a sadsack who just keeps breathing poison, and I can't figure out WHY. Dude, you don't even have to go out in the sun or anything, just pull your shirt up over your face.
Look, XP8 can drop whatever masks they want, but as long as they're making music their music's gonna dress up whatever cathartic revelations they deem worthy of honest poesy. Most such sentiment is rendered palatable with big beats and squiggly sequences. I don't know if those elements are masks that obscure or conduits of true emotion, but here's the skinny: no songs as good as "Zero" by the YYYeahs, which follows these guys in my iTunes, but still seven or eight solid genre stompers. They'll be a swell accompaniment to your next makeup-and-leather get together.